A good clean fight isn’t the default for most of us. My own marriage was riddled with the detritus of explosive fights until we learned that that wasn’t working for us. In my work with couples I’ve found that some of us lack the most basic skills in how to have a good argument. We just never got that memo and out parents were terrible role models. Consequently, I’ve come up with four rules of engagement. These are ways to help you and your sparring partner have a good argument which is a conflict that you both have the courage to argue about in a way that both parties are heard, respected and after which you feel closer than ever and can have some great make up sex!
4 Tips For A Good Clean Fight
Not in order of importance, they are as follows:
- Never yell or use foul, abusive language. I don’t know how many times I’ve yelled my partner, “Stop yelling!” only to have him yell back, “I’m not yelling!” Both of you need to honor the other when your partner says, “Please talk to me more quietly. I can hear you better that way.” Plus words can be weaponized if they are spoken at top volume
- Never bring others into the argument. Keep the argument just between the two of you. Even ghosts in the room with you can cause a person to feel ganged up on. There is nothing to be gained by saying, “And my mother, sister and all my aunts agree with me!” or “You rather never liked me!”
- Never bring up the past. Stay focused on one issue in the current space and time. Piling up all past hurts can become overwhelming fast. If there are things in your history that are unresolved it might be good to work them out but at another time. Not when something just happened that needs your attention. Try to stay focused on one situation at a time.
- Allow time out. What’s good for kids when they get overwhelmed is good for adults. A time out before you get so upset you are no longer able to think or you’re at risk of yelling or using abusive language is very wise. Just don’t make it forever. You still have stuff to talk about. For twenty minutes or so, go to separate rooms, maybe take a walk, a shower, anything to help sooth you to feel more in control, calmer. When you are both reset and ready, you can talk and listen again.
Sounds simple and common sense-ish right? It’s amazing how the simple stuff that can trip us up. You can have a good clean fight. It’s not as difficult as you might imagine.
For more details on how to change “Pass the f*&^ing salt!” to “Please, pass the salt,” there is no better reference than Susan Heilter, author of The Power of Two. And you can always contact the professionals at Explore What’s Next. We have relationship coaches and therapists ready to help you put these guidelines into practice in a way that will benefit your life together.